News Release

New Historical Exhibit Spotlights Faith and Commitment of New Zealand's 'Labour Missionaries'

Stories, photos and videos celebrate the volunteers who built a temple and a school over 60 years ago

A new exhibit in New Zealand tells the remarkable story of faith that led to the construction of a school and a temple in the 1950’s.

Located in Hamilton, about 120 kilometres south of Auckland, the project came to be known as ‘Temple View.

The exhibit, “Sacrifice and Consecration: The Lord Builds a People for the Temple," is in the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Centre (MCPCHC) adjacent to the temple.

It tells the story of labour missionaries who answered the call of their prophet, and came to Temple View to serve God and build something special.

In 1951, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began their largest construction project outside of North America and did it with volunteer labour from Church members.

They were known as labour missionaries and willingly donated their time and talents to the construction of the Church College of New Zealand (CCNZ) and the Hamilton New Zealand Temple.

Dozens of homes for the workers were also built along with workshops where they fabricated everything needed for construction, including a sawmill, joinery, and brick-making plant.

Over the years, close to 1,000 people worked on the project. The crews consisted of mostly young people, many with limited skills, who received hands-on training from more experienced tradesmen. For many of these young people, their new skills turned into lifelong professions.

In 1958, CCNZ opened and provided educational opportunities to thousands of youth from across the South Pacific in an atmosphere of faith, love and respect.

Also in 1958, the temple was completed. President of the Church, David O. McKay, came to New Zealand to dedicate it. Temple View became the centre of the Church in the South Pacific.

Prior to the construction of the Hamilton Temple, Church members had to travel to Hawaii to visit a temple. This was the second temple built outside of North America and the first one in the southern hemisphere.

The Hamilton temple has been closed for the past three years, while significant renovations have been undergone. Before the temple is re-dedicated, public tours are planned, similar to the tours held in 1958.

The historical exhibit consists of photos, artifacts and nearly 40 videos featuring labour missionaries giving first-hand accounts of their remarkable experiences.

Labour Missionaries are joined by Elder and Sister Yamashita at the George R. Biesinger Hall near the Hamilton Temple in celebration of a new exhibit opening at the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Centre in Temple View. New Zealand, May 2021. 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

“As we learned of the events of the 1950’s, we found stories that were so compelling of people that were dedicated to a spiritual cause, we just felt that it was a story that needed to be told,” according to former MCPCHC directors, Eva and Barry Garlick. “It needed to reach a wider audience and it needed to be remembered.

“This is a story about a people who loved each other and who loved their God, a people we can love. Anyone who hears this story feels that," said Eva Garlick. "They gave their all, they didn’t hold back on anything.”

Counselor in the Church's Pacific Area Presidency, Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, and his wife Tazuko, welcomed guests to the exhibition opening.

Elder Yamashita was deeply moved. “These labour missionaries left us a great legacy,” he said. “Through their obedience, their humility and their hard work.

He added, “We can learn much from the way they loved and served each other to build this great temple.”

Elder Hori T. Elkington, Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Centre Director said, “I am so pleased with the opening of the exhibit honouring our labour missionaries.  The two days of celebration were evidence of the Temple View and nearby communities' appreciation for the labour missionaries vast service of love over half a century ago.

The opening was attended by dozens of labour missionaries, each with great stories of sacrifice and learning.

George Chase described the work done to establish places of education and edification as the “greatest programme on earth, done under the guidance of the Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

The labour missionary examples of Lynda Briggs' parents, James and Rosie Forbes, and her older siblings, were a catalyst for her own labour missionary service a few years later. Briggs supported a second wave of labour missionary construction as an administrative assistant, during which time several Church buildings were built around the country.

“It was a period of time when chapel building occurred. I wanted to serve my Father in heaven with a passion,” she said.

This weekend’s events were capped off with visits by young people from congregations in Hamilton. They were invited to explore the exhibit and learn more about the labour missionaries' stories.

“I was so excited to see a photo of my great-grandparents," said George Cookson, namesake of George Cookson who worked on the plumbing crew.

George and Claire Cookson.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

"I didn’t know that they were labour missionaries and it was cool to read their story,”

Dr. Melanie Riwai-Couch, manager of Church History for the Pacific, said, "This exhibit is a celebration and recognition of those labour missionaries who responded to that call and came to Temple View. It’s also a recognition of people across the Pacific as they traveled here to worship in the temple."

“It’s truly an expression of gratitude for the gift they gave us that we get to enjoy now, and in the future.”

One of the distinguished guests on the day, Dr Gaurav Sharma MP for Hamilton East, posted about his experience at the exhibit opening.

Go to the Church's Pacific Instagram account for more:

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